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Treasures of the Archives: The Loss of Kettle Falls

“Fishing for Salmon at the Kettle Falls,” 1910-1940, Kettle Falls History Center Photographs, Crossroads on the Columbia, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives.

“Fishing for Salmon at the Kettle Falls,” 1910-1940, Kettle Falls History Center Photographs, Crossroads on the Columbia, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives, http://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov.

When the gates of the newly constructed Grand Coulee Dam closed in 1939, the waters of the mighty Columbia River began to back up behind the dam. As the waters rose, farms, historic sites, and ten small agricultural towns were lost to the rising floodwaters forming behind the colossal dam.

Perhaps the most important site lost was Kettle Falls. Shaped by enormous quartzite blocks, the impressive falls were an important part of regional native culture. As spawning salmon migrated up the Columbia River to their summer breeding grounds, they would leap up the falls. For thousands of years American Indians from all over the region travelled to Kettle Falls to fish and engage in trade and social reunions. Thousands of fish could be caught in a single day by the many Indians who shored the fishing camps beside Kettle Falls.

Treasures of the Archives: Gordon Hirabayashi’s Quaker Wedding

Spokane County marriage certificate of Gordon Hirabayashi and Esther Schmoe who married July 29, 1944, Marriage Records, Spokane County Auditor, Marriage Records, 1880-2013, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives.

Spokane County marriage certificate of Gordon Hirabayashi and Esther Schmoe who married July 29, 1944, Marriage Records, Spokane County Auditor, Marriage Records, 1880-2013, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives, http://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov.

“Japanese-American and White Girl Wed” proclaimed the newspapers after receiving word that activist Gordon Hirabayashi married his college sweetheart, Esther Schmoe, in a small Quaker ceremony on July 29, 1944. This wasn’t Hirabayashi’s first time in the news, nor would it be his last.

When America and Japan went to war in December of 1941, Japanese-Americans found themselves subject to special restrictions, including curfews and even forced relocation to internment camps. Some resisted. In 1943, Hirabayashi, an American citizen born in Seattle, intentionally broke curfew and refused to register for relocation to an internment camp, hoping to become a Supreme Court test case. Awaiting the outcome of his case, Hirabayashi moved to Spokane, taking up work with the Quaker-run American Friends Service Committee.

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